Brave New Worlds
I’ve been invited to be an anchor author in the upcoming anthology Brave New Worlds, to be published by Zombies Need Brains Press in 2022. I’m looking forward to writing a story for it, and my first thought is to write something set in my Psi-Tech universe, which has a strong theme of new planets and human settlements running through it. So this leads me to think about worldbuilding and I’m reminded that a few years ago, in an interview for his blog, Pete Sutton asked a number of questions. This one probably deserves a more detailed answer to the one I gave. Pete asked: “If you could travel inside the world of any fantasy novel, which world would you want to visit and why? Which one would you never want to visit?”
I need to say that my appreciation or otherwise of any of these worlds would entirely depend on my status/position and wealth. Any world (including ours) where you are scraping by in a peasant economy with no running water or sanitation, and nine hungry kids to feed is Not Fun.
I would both a) want, and b) never want to travel to Westeros. a) because I’d love to see it all, and b) because I would either end up dead almost as soon as my feet touched earth, or I would end up as a drudge in Fleabottom. I have no illusions about being as competent (or as brave) as my characters in fantasy. I can’t swing a sword, wield a knife (except in the kitchen) or run very fast. I do have some skills that might save my life. I can ride a horse, for instance, but that won’t do me any good unless I’ve got a horse.
Before Covid I was planning on going to New Zealand for the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention, which meant I could take a few extra days to see Hobbiton and do the Weta Workshop tour. That would have been as close to Middle Earth as I could manage. Hopefully without being chased by orcs or any one of the other creatures in Tolkien’s world that could kill me. Hobbiton might be OK, though. Of course, I’d prefer to take the Hobbiton as seen in the movies, not the one from the books, otherwise it would be just my luck to land in the middle of the Scouring of the Shire. Let’s face it, if authors made life easy for their characters in their fantasy lands, readers would all get very bored. Writers create lands where the characters are in almost constant danger, so it stands to reason that dropping into any one of them would be dangerous. You’ve noticed a recurring theme here, huh? I’m happy to write about characters in extreme peril, but much less inclined to put myself in any danger.
Narnia seems relatively benign once the White Witch has been defeated. I’m not a great lover of winter, especially when it’s ‘always winter but never Christmas’ and displeasing the witch would get you turned into a statue. So I’d probably (if there was a choice) like to end up in Narnia during the reign of High King Peter, with Susan, Edmund and Lucy on their thrones in Cair Paravel. Intelligent talking animals and a period of peace and plenty. What could possibly go wrong?
OK, strictly speaking this is science fiction not fantasy, but the Barrayar of Miles Vorkosigan (as opposed to the time of the civil war just before his birth) seems relatively safe and civilised. Though Miles manages to get into trouble, he does it mostly off world. I’d like to see the family home in the Count’s own district, and maybe go riding in the hills, or go shopping with Cordelia. I wouldn’t mind seeing Miles from a distance. He’s one of those characters you love to read about, but you just know that if you had to live with him on a daily basis, you’d simply want to kill him.
Taking everything into consideration, Narnia wins hands down. Now, where’s my wardrobe?